California court charging for online access

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A Northern California county has begun charging people to look at civil court records online — part of a trend at cash-strapped courthouses around the state that is raising concerns among some lawyers and public access groups, a newspaper reported.

As of April 23, Alameda County Superior Court charges $1 for each of the first five pages of a civil court record downloaded online, the Oakland Tribune reported on Monday.

The per-page viewing cost drops to 50 cents after the fifth page, and there is a $40 maximum charge for any single document.

Sacramento County Superior Court is implementing a similar fee structure this summer, the Tribune reported. Fees in the Los Angeles County Superior Court system start at $4.75 for each record search. Santa Clara County plans to begin charging in two to four years, according to the Tribune.

Court officials say the fees help make up for cuts in state aid.

"There's a budget crisis in the courts," said Teresa Ruano, spokeswoman for the state's Administrative Office of the Courts. "Revenue is part of the solution, a small part of the solution."

Each court decides whether it wants to charge a fee for records, though the state sets the maximum amount that can be charged for both paper and online records. Some counties don't put records online, forcing people to come in and visit the clerk's office.

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